Rocks in the Belly is narrated by an eight year old boy, an only child desperate for his parents' affections. His mother brings in foster boys which incites a fierce and sometimes dark jealousy. Possessive of his mother's attention, her son does whatever he can to monopolise her affections and when Robert joins their family, all this is set to escalate.
Originally from the UK, but now an Australian citizen living in Melbourne, it's hard to believe this is Jon Bauer's first novel. I read a sample chapter in Good Reading Magazine a long time ago and I recall it had me hooked right away.
The reader never learns the name of the troubled young boy in Rocks in the Belly, however his observations are unique and dark, strangely youthful and sometimes quite funny. Offsetting the humour are unexpected sociopathic thoughts and shocking behaviour that reminded me of movies like The Good Son.
Interspersed between the chapters we meet the young boy as an adult, returning to the family home to look after his mother in the very last stages of a terminal illness, her mind almost lost to a brain tumour. The two of them together dance around the shadows of the past slowly revealing to the reader the shocking events of years ago.
This is an excellent read and I thoroughly enjoyed the sections narrated by the young boy, they were piercing and unpredictable and definitely kept the pace flying along. I'd definitely recommend Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer; the young character is likely to stick with you for a while afterwards.
My rating = ****
N.B. I'm also pleased that this novel qualifies for the Aussie Author Challenge 2012.